Applying in Person
Applying for a passport is not really difficult -- it just requires following very specific rules. Follow these steps and you'll have all your bases covered:
1.) Complete application Form DSP-11 -- but DO NOT sign the form until you are instructed to do so by the passport agent. (As we mentioned, application forms can be obtained from any passport agency or acceptance facility during their posted hours of passport application acceptance, or by downloading the form from the State Department's Web site. In addition, some travel agents keep application forms on hand for their clients.)
2.) Present proof of U.S. citizenship (NOT your voter's registration card, army discharge card or Social Security card, but one of the following):
- Previous U.S. passport
- Certified birth certificate issued by the city, county or state. (The way you'll know you have a certified birth certificate is that it has a registrar's raised, embossed, pressed or multicolored seal and the date the certificate was filed with the registrar's office.)
- Consular report of birth abroad
- Naturalization certificate
- Certificate of citizenship
If none of these is available, you'll have to dig deeper to come up with documents the passport agent will accept. You will need a letter of no record. This document is issued by the state, confirming the name, date of birth, years searched for a record and that there is no birth certificate on file for the applicant. In addition, you'll want to take along as many of the following documents as you can:
- Other documentation of birth in the United States, such as a baptismal certificate, hospital birth certificate (this is not the same as the certified birth certificate issued by the state), census record, certificate of circumcision, early school record, family Bible record or a doctor's record of post-natal care. (This documentation must be a public record showing the date and place of birth and must have been created within the first five years of life. An affidavit or Form DSP-10A from an older blood relative who has personal knowledge of your birth can be used but must be notarized or contain the seal and signature of the passport acceptance agent.)
- Proof of identity, such as previous U.S. passport, certificate of citizenship or naturalization, current valid driver's license, government (city, state or federal) ID, military ID (for military and dependents), work ID (from current employer), student ID (must be currently enrolled), Merchant Marine card (also known as a "seamen's" or "Z" card), pilot or flight attendant ID
Still no luck? Then try to get someone who can vouch for you (the applicant). This person must have known you for at least two years, must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have valid ID. That person will need to fill out Form DSP-71 in front of the passport agent. The passport applicant must have some form of signature ID, such as a Social Security card, credit card, bank card or library card.
One more thing: Even though your Social Security card is not required by the passport application, it does ask for your Social Security number. (According to Passport Services, the Internal Revenue Service receives notification of those who decline to produce a Social Security card or number. They can be fined up to $500 for failure to provide this information, so remember to take your card along.)
What Kind of Photos Do I Have to Bring?
Photographs must be 2x2 inches in size, identical and taken within the past six months. The image size from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head should be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches. They may be in color or black and white, full face or front view, with a plain white or off-white background. (Don't worry -- professional passport photographers know these rules!) Photographs should be taken in normal street attire, without a hat or headgear that covers the hair or hairline. Uniforms should not be worn in photographs with the exception of religious attire that is worn daily. If prescription glasses, hearing aids, wigs or other such articles are normally worn, they should be worn when the picture is taken. Dark glasses or non-prescription glasses with tinted lenses are not allowed unless they are required for medical reasons. A medical certificate may be required to support the wearing of these glasses in photographs.) Vending machine photos are not generally acceptable -- to be on the safe side, you'd better get a professional to take your photo and print it. (Kinko's, Eckerd's and other quick-photo places will make your photos for you while you wait. It usually costs about $15 for one shot, two prints.)